Social entrepreneurs blur borders

PJ staff report

In their efforts to promote progress on some of society’s most pressing problems, social entrepreneurs increasingly are applying strategies from arenas outside the nonprofit sector, a new survey says.

Almost half the social entrepreneurs surveyed by Echoing Green in 2010 previously worked in the for-profit arena, a jump of 13 percent from 2008, while 15 percent fewer have worked in the nonprofit or government sectors.

And more than a third structured their social-venture organizations as hybrids, containing characteristics of both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, up almost 20 percent from 2007.

Over the same time period, the number of social ventures set up as nonprofits declined by almost 20 percent.

Social entrepreneurs tend to be fairly young, with more seven in 10 of those surveyed stating their age as 35 or younger in 2009.

They also became interested in social change early in their lives, with almost two-thirds first studying their chosen social-change issue during college.

And more than a third are “serial entrepreneurs,” having founded at least one other organization, of which more than seven in 10 remain in existence.

The survey pool is made up of the almost 300 social entrepreneurs who were selected as semi-finalists for Echoing Green’s social entrepreneurship fellowship.

Echoing Green is an organization that invests in and promotes the work of social entrepreneurs around the world. To date, it has provided more than $28 million in seed funding to social entrepreneurs.

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